Cultivation System

Ragi is the most important food grain in India and it is cultivated in different states depending upon the weather, nature of the crop, soil type and water availabilty   

There are two systems of cultivation is practiced in Ragi.

Irrigated System

  • Irrigated crop can be raised in December - January and April- May seasons.
  • It is suited for cultivation all over Tamil Nadu and Karnataka
  • Sowing should done soon after onset of monsoon
  • The field  is fertilized  and irrigated adequately

Methods Practiced

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Rainfed System

  • Average and well distributed rainfall of 450-500 mm is optimum for rainfed ragi
  • This system followed in the month of June and July. It also grown in winter season (rabi) by planting in September – October in Tamil Nadu and as a summer irrigated crop by planting January – February.
  • Mostly rainfed ragi is mixed or intercropped with sorghum, pearl millet, oil seeds and pulses
  • Fallow ploughing is advantageous for moisture conservation
  • Line sowing is ideal and seed drills giving spacing of 22.5 – 30 cm between rows should be used. Sowing by seed-cum-fertilizer drill is advantageous for line sowing
  • Recommended seed rate of 15-20 kg per hectare
  • Sowing should be done early in rainfed areas, to avoid moisture stress at critical stage of flowering 
    Maintenance of optimum plant population is an important prerequisite for getting higher yield under rainfed conditions
  • Use seed hardening technique will not only improve germination and subsequent plant stand but also impart early seedling vigour and tolerance to drought
  • Apply Recommended dose of N: P: K 40:20:20 kg/ha. 50% of fertilizer  at the time of sowing and the remaining 50% around 35 days after sowing is recommended
  • In line sown crop 2-3 inter-cultivations are necessary. In assured rainfall and irrigated areas spraying 2, 4-D sodium salt @ 0.75 kg.a.i./ha as post-emergent spray around 20-25 days after sowing effectively controls weeds
  • In broadcast crop two effective hand weedings will minimize weeds as inter cultivations is not possible.
    The yield is affected by early and late sowings

Methods Practiced

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Direct Sown Crop

Package of Practices

  • Seed rate: 10 Kg/ha
  • Spacing: 22.5*15 cm
  • The seeds are directly sown in lines or broadcasted in the main field
  • Direct seeding is done by broadcasting the seeds or seeds sowing in lines with the recommended spacing, which are later covered by ploughing, harrowing or trampling using animals
  • Apply NPK/ha @ 22.5 Kg/ha each before sowing and top dress N at after on 21 days after sowing
  • Furrows and ridges are prepared for irrigation. Irrigate the field at weekly intervals increase growth rate and yield
  • Weeding should be done three weeks after sowing and completed before top dressing
  • Spray insecticides and fungicides for the control of pest and diseases
  • Matures 3 -5 months after sowing, depending on variety, season and soil properities
  • Harvest the crop when the ears are yellowish brown

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Transplanted Crop

Package of Practices

  • Seed rate: 3 - 5 Kg/ha
  • Spacing: For Irrigated 22.5x 10 cm, For Rainfed 22.5 to 30x 7.5 to 10 cm
  • It is common where early rains are uncertain. Seedlings are raised in nursery and planted in main field
  • Prepare the nursery field to fine tilth. Form beds and channels and sow the seeds uniformly on the beds and cover by stirring the soil
  • Transplant the seedlings  to main field when they are three weeks old
  • Plough the main field 3-4 times and incorporate FYM or compost
  • Irrigate the field on the day of transplantation. Irrigation at weekly intervals increases growth rate and yield
  • Apply N, P2O5 and K2O @ 22.5 Kg/ha each before sowing or planting. Top dress N at22.5 Kg/ha 21 days after planting
  • Weeding should be done three weeks after sowing and completed before top dressing
  • Spray insecticides and fungicides for the control of pest and diseases
  • Matures 3 -5 months after sowing, depending on variety, season and soil properties
  • Harvest the crop when the ears are yellowish brown

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System of Ragi Intensification

In Karnataka, System of Ragi Intensification is called as Gulli ragi in local language which applies the same kind of management practices as used in SRI to grow finger millet, with often tripling of yield, without dependence of chemical fertilizers.

SRI Technology uses less input. It uses less seed, water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides but uses more organic manures. Rice grown with SRI Technology has large root volume, profuse and strong tillers with big panicles, more and well – filled spikelets with higher grain weight.

Under SRI, ragi fields are not flooded but only kept moist by alternate wetting and drying.

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How to grow nursery?

Prepare the land thoroughly when dry. Apply FYM and puddle well. Then, make beds of 1 meter width with convenient length. Remove the soil from either side of the bed and put it on the bed. The bed automatically gets raised in height. Place wooden planks of bamboo slits all around the bed for support so that the soil will not loosen and get carried away with rain. The seedbed should be prepared as closely as possible to the main field so as to minimize transport time between removal of seedlings from the bed and transplanting in the field.

Soak the seed in water for 12 hours. Put the seed in a wet gunny bag and leave it for 24 hours for incubation. Level the seed bed. Spread a thin layer of well decomposed FYM on the bed. On this layer, broadcast the seed sparsely. See that 1.25 kg seed is sown on 40 Sq. m area. Apply another layer of FYM to cover the seeds. Irrigate carefully every morning and evening. Do not apply any agro chemicals to the nursery bed. In 10 to 15 days, vigorous & healthy nursery is ready for transplanting.

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SRI Principles

i. Use of young seedlings for transplanting

Early Transplanting:

A 10 to 15 days old seedling with just two leaves have to be transplanted. This ensures more tillers and more root growth. While 30 tillers per plant are fairly easy to achieve, 50 tillers per plant are quite attainable.

Taking out seedlings from the nursery:

Take an Iron sheet of sufficient thickness measuring 18” by 15”. Push through this sheet into the nursery bed beneath the plants about 3 inches down from the surface. Then lift the sheet gently. Now the plants along with the mud have come on to the metal sheet. Carry seedlings with the soil to the main field. With your right thumb and forefinger, take plant by plant along with soil and place the plant along with mud and roots gently at the intersection of grid lines made for the purpose to plant at wider spacing in a square pattern.

Preparing the main field for transplanting:

Plough the land thoroughly as it is done with the conventional method. At every two-meter interval make 25 cm wide channels. To make channels, place sticks at appropriate intervals (i.e. 2 m, 30 cm) along the edge of the field and stretch tine rope between them. Hold two ropes, at 25 cm apart. Remove the soil within the two ropes and spread it on the adjacent beds thereby a channel is made. Level the field thoroughly. Then take a “rake” that has teeth at 25cm apart which can be constructed simply from wood. It is pulled across the surface of the prepared field, marking lines on the surface at 25 cm intervals. Drawing the rake across the first set of lines perpendicularly (at a right angle) to them creates the desired square pattern on which seedlings are planted at the intersections of lines.

  • In Karnataka, the korudu is pulled across the field several times between 15 and 45 days after transplanting, to bend over the young plants without breaking them off, causing the mildly traumatized plants to put out more tillers and more roots.
  • In Karnataka, the yade kunte is a blade mounted on the end of a long handle pulled down the wide space (45 cm) between rows and between plants, aerating the soil at the same time that it eliminates weed competition.

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ii. Careful Transplanting

It is important to avoid ‘shock’ or ‘trauma’ while transplanting the seedlings. Remove seedlings from nursery with seed, soil and roots intact carefully and plant it in the field without plunging too deep into the soil. The seed should be attached to the seedlings and transplanted as soon as possible after being removed from the nursery – within half an hour and preferably within 15 minutes to avoid desiccation and traumatization of the plant.

Care is to be taken to ensure that when the seedlings are transplanted that their root tips are not inverted as usually happened during the hurried, rough transplanting done in the conventional method. If the root tip was turned upward – shaped like a J, rather than an L it could take a week or more for the tip to reorient itself downward and resume growth. Hence, do not thrust seedlings downward into the soil. Rather, each seedling is slipped into the soil very ‘gently’ and close to the surface, so that its root lies horizontally in the moist soil. This makes the shape of the transplanted seedling more like ‘L’ than like ‘J’ and facilitates root growing quickly downward. Only single seedling is to be planted at the intersection rather than in clumps of 2 or 3 or more.

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iii. Wider Spacing

Ragi plants can better realize their potential for tiller and root growth and for subsequent grain filling, if spaced widely rather than densely. Seedlings are to be planted a square pattern at 25 x 25 cm wide. Leaving wide space between each plant ensures that roots have adequate room to grow and the plants will be exposed to more sunlight, air and nutrients. The result is more root growth and more tillering. The square pattern also facilitates weeding in both directions. This means that individual plants have more room to spread.

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iv. Weeding and Aeration

As there is no standing water in rice fields under SRI method, weed growth is very high. Use simple mechanical hand weeder (rotary hoe) to churn the soil for weed control. Rotate the weeder at least 2 to 4 times. This incorporates the weeds into the soil. The first weeding should be done at 10-12 days after transplanting to eliminate weeds when these were just germinating rather than wait for them to grow. Subsequent weedings are done at 10 days interval. Working with rotary weeders helps in greater aeration which results in more root growth, reduced weed competition, more oxygen and nitrogen to roots. Weeds incorporated into the soil with each weeding can add-up to 1 ton green manure per hectare per weeding and also helps build up large and diverse microbial population in the soil.

Can herbicides be used?
No. Herbicides are not recommended under SRI method. Instead, weeds have to be incorporated into the soil.

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v. Water Management

Water should not be allowed to stagnate under SRI method. Give regular irrigations to keep the soil moist. Alternate ‘wetting and drying’ should be done which give aerobic and anaerobic soil conditions for better nutrient mobilization by soil biota. This avoids root degeneration, which usually happens under continuous flooding. Unflooded conditions, combined with mechanical weeding, result in more air in the soil and greater root growth. Higher root growth provides access to more nutrients.

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vi. Organic Manures


Instead of chemical fertilizers, FYM or compost is applied @ 10t/ha which is quite sufficient as a source of nutrients. As a result, more plant growth is achieved because of better soil health and more balanced nutrient supply. Apply diverse organic manures. Organic manures act as food for microorganisms.

Pest and Disease Control:

Pest and disease problems appear to be less with SRI method, perhaps healthier and vigorous plants have more capacity to resist pest and disease attacks.

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SRI Vs Conventional method:

Conventional Method
SRI Method
3 - 5Kg seed is used per hectare
1.25 Kg seed is used per hectare
25 to 30 day old seedlings are transplanted

Only 8-12 day old seedlings are transplanted


Seedlings are pulled with force, roots, washed, bundled, stacked thrown thereby causing lot of trauma and shock to the plants

Seedlings are treated very gently by scooping. No pulling, no washing, no bundling and no stacking.
Planted at random
Planted in square pattern
3 or more plants are planted in clumps
Only one plant is planted per hill

Application of NPK, fertilizers as recommended

Application of organic manures only basal dose of fertilizers at present. No top dressing

Is it labour intensive?

Some farmers are hesitant at first to use SRI methods because they require more labour and skill and appear risky. At first, SRI may take 50 to 100% more labour. Planting and weeding are initially the most labour intensive part of SRI. Since yields can be double or even trippled than with current practices, it justifies mobilization of labour for profit. But over time this amount is reduced. It requires even less labour once tools designed and techniques are mastered and confidence gained.

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Benefits of SRI

  • Higher grain and straw yields

  • Reduction in duration by 10 days.

  • Lesser chemical inputs

  • Less water requirement (About half that of conventional method)

  • Less chaffy grain

  • Grain weight increased without change in grain size

  • Higher head ragi recovery

  • Withstood cyclonic gales.

  • Soil health improves through biological activity

  • Cold tolerance

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Constraints of SRI

  • Non availability of labours at the initial states of planting.  So it is a barrier to adopt this technology by farmers
  • Farmers need more experience to practices this method
  • SRI results well in rabi season because they have more water control and there is more sunlight. But in the kharif (summer) season, the timing of the monsoon’s onset is unpredictable, and its arrival brings serious flooding, which makes it hard for farmers to maintain soil aeration.
  • Unavailability of suitable weeders
  • Traditional mindest of farmers
  • Lack of awareness about the technology
  • As SRI is labour intensive it is not suitable for large scale production

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